NHL Lockout Over! A Tale of Two Cities

The NHL locket is OVER! As I contemplate what exactly this means for me and my hockey viewing/consumption habits, I thought I’d share two emails I got this morning. Obviously, the NHL and its teams have a massive PR mountain to climb in repairing the damage done to their fanbases, so these letters were expected. However…one is a marketing fail, the other a success. I think it’ll be quickly apparent which is which.

I’ll have more to say on this on a blog entry over at WeLoveDC tomorrow. For now, marinate in these very different marketing approaches to repair fan relations:

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We are extremely excited that the National Hockey League has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the Players’ Association, pending final approval on both sides. This is certainly welcome news for all of us – fans, players, corporate partners, local businesses, broadcast rights holders, media, staff and owners – and especially our plan holders who have created such a fantastic Verizon Center atmosphere.

Thanks to all of you for your patience, support and understanding during this process. We will continue to be in touch as more information becomes available, and all of us at the Capitals look forward to seeing you at Verizon Center in the coming weeks.

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We offer our apology. There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months.

However, now that the NHL is back, we want to assure you that the Pittsburgh Penguins will do everything we can to regain your trust and show how much we value your amazing support.

The sounds of skates churning across the ice and pucks banging against the glass are returning to CONSOL Energy Center. That means a healthy Sidney Crosby is about to rejoin NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin, first-team All-Star James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and others as we begin our quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh.

We want to thank you for your patience and your loyalty to the Penguins. We hope to repay it many times over. Our commitment to winning the Stanley Cup and our commitment to you has not changed.

We look forward to seeing you at CONSOL Energy Center.

 

‘Nuff said.

2011 Winter Classic (Cross It Off the Bucket List!)

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The end of 2010 has been hectic (to say the least); fortunately, the tail of the holiday season left me and my beautiful wife on the cusp of attending the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in our previous hometown of Pittsburgh. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a diehard Penguins fan – beginning way back in 1984 when a certain Mario Lemieux was drafted.

I won’t rehash my experience here. Why? Because I covered it pretty extensively for WeLoveDC, so you’re welcome to go there and read all about it:

Road to the Winter Classic, Part I
Caps Overcome Rain, Penguins in Winter Classic
Road to the Winter Classic, Part II

Photos here.

Suffice to say, it was everything I’d hoped and more, save a Penguins victory. But even that loss cannot dampen how much fun and awesome the whole thing was, from lead-up to denouement.

And now, back to writing. I’ve got two books to finish by the end of February…

Ice Time

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I find myself in possession of a few minutes before the final regular season game of the Washington Capitals (against the Boston Bruins) so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts regarding the opportunity the Capitals have given me over the last few months. Back in January, I was discussing (via email) with Tom – fellow WeLoveDC founder – how to take our beautiful site to the ‘next level’, as he had just announced to the group regarding our amazing readership numbers. (We’ve skyrocketed nearly every month since our July 2008 launch.) He was in the process of applying for press access to the Nationals and DC United, so I popped up and asked if we could approach the Washington Capitals. I mean, why not?

The Caps are finishing up one of the franchise’s best seasons ever. Records have fallen all over the place, both within the team and on the NHL stat charts. They’re on the cusp of a Stanley Cup season; if not this year, most definitely in the next three. Fan craze is at an all-time high (rivaling Pittsburgh) and have managed to capture this city’s attention. No small feat, considering the Redskins football team has been (and still is) the reigning sports champion – at least in spirit.

So indeed, why not let our burgeoning DC site cover the Caps more ‘officially’?

Continue reading

Eastern Conference Semifinals: Capitals vs. Penguins

Photo courtesy of
‘Ovechkin and Malkin, Friends at Last, Friends at Last’ courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

[Note: Normally I don’t cross-post from my stuff at WeLoveDC. But I’m in a bind today, writing-wise, and while I’d like to have a more Penguins-centric and snarky article dissing the Caps, I’m going to instead opt to just reprint my article from WLDC instead. It’s close to what I wanted to say anyway, so…

I will say here, though, that I’m glad that all these games are national coverage. Despite my disdain for NBC and Versus coverage and commentary, I loathe Comcast’s Caps broadcast team even more, because Joe Laughlin makes me want to scream. Joe, btw – it’s MALL-kin, *not* MAAL-kin. Freakin’ do your research.

If, however, Comcast flexes its blackout rules and forces me to watch the games with the bumble-twins, don’t expect me to be in a good mood the morning after a game. Just sayin’. -BHR]

I’m in hockey nirvana.

When the NHL playoffs were finally set, one of the first things many fans here and in Pennsylvania did was figure out when and if the Capitals would actually face the Pittsburgh Penguins during hockey’s “second season.” It was a bit convoluted to work around, since both teams were highly seeded, and it looked – for about a week – that this year wouldn’t see the match-up we all secretly wanted, and dreaded. But then the Caps figured out they were actually in the playoffs and executed a very stressful and tense comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to stuff the Rangers.

And when Carolina shocked New Jersey with two quick goals in the last two minutes of their own Game 7, it was as if the hockey planets aligned. The match-up the NHL slobbered for had arrived.

Penguins. Capitals. Stanley Cup Semifinals.

And it promises to be one extremely wild, crazy, emotional ride for both cities. Find out why after the jump. Continue reading

Hockey Nirvana

Photo courtesy of
‘Ovechkin and Crosby – New Best Friends Forever’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

It’s official: Penguins and Capitals in Round 2.

I’ll have more to say on this later in the week, but suffice that right now? I AM STOKED. This is the playoff series I’ve always loved and was hoping for this year. Even if it isn’t the Conference Finals, I don’t care. I could care less about the rest of the playoffs at this point: THIS IS THE SERIES TO WATCH.

Look for a series “pre”cap here on Friday; I’ll be posting one up on WLDC as well. Obviously, the one here will be more biased towards my Penguins…and I’ll most likely take crap from Caps fans on the WLDC site. But that’s okay.

This is what playoff hockey is all about. To quote Igloo announcer John Barbaro:

ARRRRRRE YOOOOOOOOOOU READYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????!!!!!

Who’s the Greatest? Ovie vs. The Kid

Photo courtesy of David M*
Crosby’s View, courtesy of David M*

Inevitably, I get asked the question “Who’s better, Crosby or Ovechkin?” Probably because it’s widely known among my friends and acquaintances that I’m a solid Penguins fan.

It’s a hard question to answer, really.

Burnside and LeBrun tried to answer it recently during a series of articles around the preview of this year’s NHL season. Result?

Inconclusive.

Honestly, I see it as this generation’s “Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemiuex?” question. You can’t really answer it. Gretzky was a pure player – his amazing records and fantastic goals are still the stuff of awe and wonder. Yet you can’t discount Lemiuex, who was ballet on ice – when not crippled by pesky cancer. He was the consummate leader and inspired his teammates to play unmatched and not repeated in their later years with other teams.

I could go on and on – and did, back in my younger days. Many times around the lunch room table at school did we argue back and forth between the two.

It’s no different now. Continue reading